Was Jesus the “Beginning and End” of Your Year? Homily for Christ The King
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” Taking this scripture passage from Revelation 1:8, Scripture scholar Anne Osdieck wrote, “Jesus, please be the beginning and end of our every day, every project, every prayer, every peril, every love, all that we do and all that we are.”
It echoes another prayer from the Thursday after Ash Wednesday,
Direct, we beseech you, O Lord, our actions by your holy inspirations, and carry them on by your gracious assistance. That every prayer and work of ours may begin always with you, and through you come to completion. Through Christ our Lord… Amen.
This week is the end of the current liturgical year. Next week if the beginning of Advent. So today we celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. The readings this week and last week reflected the idea of Jesus Christ the King of all creation and the king of all time. He will ascend his throne at the end of the world and at the end of time. Thus, the Solemnity of Christ The King liturgically reminds us that, at some point, our time in this world will end.
Then what happens?
It’s a good time to consider that point because add a sense of gravitas to how we spent our time over the past year. To help, let me offer something from St. John Henry Newman. Newman was Oxford education and raised Anglican. He later converted to the Catholic faith and eventually was elevated a Cardinal. The Catholic Newman Centers at colleges and universities around the United States are named for him. He wrote,
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
I’m not an entertainer. I’m not a motivational speaker. I’m your pastor. Regardless of your personal thoughts about me, my style, my actions here, I am still God’s anointed one. I speak for God. And so I ask you… how did you do in terms of your relationship with Christ since last Advent? Consider what St. John Newman wrote. You have been told that Christ has the parish of St. Monica here so that you can Encounter him in His Word, in the liturgy and in reaching out and serving others.
If you were to give yourself a grade, based on those three pillars and what Newman wrote, what would that grade be?
Earlier this month, representatives from several local parishes gathered at Daylesford Abby. We were there for a conversation with a leadership member of a Catholic parish that has tripled in size over the past 15 years. He gave us some insights and markers to grade parishes – and parishioners.
He started by quoting the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus asking two exam questions:
Question #1 – “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13)
Later Jesus asks Question #2 – “And who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
To put it another way, parishioners need to answer those two questions from an objective and a subjective point of view.
- Objectively the first question is, “Who and what is Jesus Christ?”
- The second question is, “Who and what is he – to me?”
Today we celebrate a solemnity of a man who claimed that he was King if the Universe. What does that mean to you? C. S. Lewis popularized the argument that Jesus was therefore either a bold faced liar, a raving lunatic or the Lord. You have to pick one.
How do you know if you got it right over the past 12 months? What are the S.T.E.P.S. to resolve that question? Here were some guidelines that the thriving parish mentioned above uses to help parishioners grade their relationship to Christ:
SERVE – either in ministry (internal) or missions (external). Anyone who does not serve someone or something else over the past 12 months, will find that their spiritual growth will probably be stunted.
TITHE And Give. When it comes to giving, we have heard about “Time – Talent – Treasure” That’s nice. That’s true. However, the bottom line is, it’s about the money. Money is the single biggest indicator of how much you trust God.
ENGAGE in some kind of small group/community. “Reverse peer pressure” will keep you on the straight and narrow moral path. Community will support you in good times and bad. Connections will provide resources and guidance in all parts of your life. Take a burning piece of coal out of the fire and the heat goes out, the ember goes cold and it eventually dies. No one can do it alone – not today.
PRACTICE Prayer and Sacraments. It is the way that Jesus set up to encounter you. As a Roman Catholic, it is the only way you can encounter Jesus.
SHARE your faith. There was a recent New York Times article entitled, “It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God. The author, Jonathan Merritt, considers “How the decline in our spiritual vocabulary has many real-world consequences.” The article was a synopsis of a book by the author, Learning to Speak God from Scratch. Sure it’s difficult to talk about God or your faith but you can’t even find a way to talk about Pope Francis? Everyone can “speak Francis.” Or how about Carson Wentz? Can you talk about the Eagles quarterback and his “Audience Of One” Bible study at least once over the course of 12 months?
What do these STEPS look like concretely?
Last night the parish hosted a Beef and Beer fundraiser. The backstory involved a couple. The wife – a true warrior – has been battling cancer for several years. The husband, who attends daily Mass, recently lost his job. Concerned parishioners said, “We have to do something.” They came forward and arranged for the celebration. A small team decorated for twodays. They hired a band for entertainment. There were raffles, a silent auction, a “wine grab,” a gift card “smash and snatch,” four food stations, a central drink station, a Prayer Tree, two long tables for eating. 400 people showed up. The guest of honor stayed until the end (past midnight!). It “felt like” what church is supposed to be.
The Jesus quiz is not intended to embarrass or condemn. It is definitely there to challenge and knock people out of any complacency, however. This is serious stuff. Jesus asks you to decide whether you think Jesus is a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. If you’re not sure, what STEPS can you take to change that and move your faith from “maintenance” to “mission?” The people who arranged for that Beef and Beer Fundraiser has offered an example. It’s what discipleship looks like.
As you ponder your STEPS over the course of today, let me offer you a prayer that you can say before you sleep this evening. It is also from St. John Newman:
May The Lord support us all the day long,
Till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
And our work is done.
Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging,
.. and a holy rest
.. and peace at the last.
Audio version of the homily is here: